We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other.
I think art has a right—not an obligation—to be difficult if it wishes. And, since people generally go on from this to talk about elitism versus democracy, I would add that genuinely difficult art is truly democratic.
The idea that the intellect is somehow alien to sensuousness, or vice versa, is one that I have never been able to connect with. I can accept that it is a prevalent belief, but it seems to me, nonetheless, a false notion.
I think intelligence has a kind of range of sense and allows us to contemplate the coexistence of the conceptual aspect of thought and the emotional aspect of thought as ideally wedded, troth-plight, and the circumstances in which this troth-plight can be effected are to be found in the medium of language itself.
I think men and women who write poetry or write music or paint are finally responsible for what they do. They are entitled to praise for any success they achieve and they should not complain of just criticism.
Self-astonishment is achieved when, by some process I can't fathom, common words are moved, or move themselves, into clusters of meaning so intense that they seem to stand up from the page, three-dimensional almost.
It is to be hoped—I mean, I hope—that the poetry I have been writing since 1992 squares up to, takes the measure of, weighs up, the violent evasions and stock affronts of the oligarchy of fraud. I don't, even so, write poems to be polemical; I write to create a being of beautiful energy.
For this creating to take place (as it does from time to time) words have to be accepted as heirs of their forebears, as we are of ours. And in each case, what exists is often only a bankrupt inheritance; or the hinterlands of the unspoken.
An achieved poem is always beautiful in its own way, though such a way will many times strike people as harsh and repellent.
Charles Péguy, stubborn rancours and mishaps and all, is one of the great souls, one of the great prophetic intelligences of the 20th century.I offer my poem as my homage to the triumph of his 'defeat'.
Notes on The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy, in Collected Poems Penguin Books 1985
In memory of those things these words were born.
Author note to his Collected Poems 1985.
I have learned one thing: not to look down
Too much upon the damned.
Ovid in the Third Reich
The years will not
answer for what they have done, that much is
certain. There is no shaking them, we
might have foreseen this but refused.